tv [untitled] July 7, 2012 3:30am-4:00am EDT
were operated by the army. 7,000 vessels. they are going to be part of the movement that will be prepared to launch the attack against charleston in july of 1863. the planter smalls serving on boards the planter as her pilot will carry troops, supplies back and forth between port royal. after the campaign, they were operating near the mouth of the river when lieutenant colonel elwell directed the captain of the planter to go to an area where she could come under enemy fire. he ordered his removal and stated sir, you will please
place robert smalls in charge of the united states transport planter as captain. he brought her out of charleston harbor more than a year ago r running under the defenses of that strong hold. he is an excellent pilot and worthy of the position. this is due him of the proper recognition of his heroism and services. the kurpt captain is a coward though a white man. general gilmore the department commander immediately approved the order and added luster to small's clear. from this point on until the end of the war small will serve as captain of the planter working for what would be $150 a month that would be $3,000 to $4,000 a
month. very good pay then. he will be part of the movement into florida in june of 1864. he will have this first taste in politics at a meeting in buford. he was selected by the union people of south carolina. the coalition of republicans and democrats who backed the lincoln government. however, he will not attend the conference. the army will defend him to take the army to philadelphia so he will not actually go to baltimore to be at the convention, but the other delegates did and some considered them to be the first integrate integrate ed delegation. they will not be allowed to vote. but it gets a little bit of a
forewarning of political events in the low country. when work was finished on the plan ter smalls and the vessel returned to port royal. he will be there when general william's forces reach savannah and help refit sherman's army and help transport half of the forces to the town of buford. they will be smalls will be part of moving people up to the city of charleston after charleston is captured. he will be there when the flags are again risen are again risen over ft. sumter. and i just sort of want to end with this little comment. this is a description of robert smalls when they raised the flags over ft. sumter on april 14th, 1865, smalls and the
planter are in the harbor, and this is a participant wrote about this, that he saw the planter, he saw robert smalls. the paddle wheeler was crowded almost to suffocation upon her three decks with freed men who hung over the gunnells mounted on the post, peering through the gangways, darkening the wheel house upon the top of which robert smalls, a prince among them, self-possessed, prompt and proud, giving his orders to the helmsman in ringing tones of command. robert smalls and the planter will be part of the freedman brew's work along the coast. he will take the planter to baltimore where she is sold, and eventually smalls and the planter will return to south carolina. the planter will continue on as a transport along the coast, and robert smalls will then you might say start the next phase of his career. [ applause ]
>> okay. i guess that's my cue. robert smalls obviously had a tremendous career, made a very significant impact on this country, and left us a large legacy. i can just sort of recite some of the things that he did. but even that wouldn't even touch in any way the fullness and the breadth of his impact on late 19th century america. again, most of us know he served five terms in congress. he served in the south carolina senate. he served in the south carolina house. and, of course, he was the collector of customs for the port of buford. but beyond those things, he provides us with sort of an understanding and a way of
reinterpreting reconstruction, a way of reinterpreting the civil rights movement. now -- so he sort of brings together those two fields. you heard dr. powers allude to his being sort of the precursor to the second reconstruction because of what he did in the 19th century. well, let me start this way by talking about reconstruction and robert smalls' a role in it. you'll see how these two things come together in terms of how he has influenced american historiography. in 1909, w.e.b. dubois spoke before the american historical association in new york city. he did a presentation called "reconstruction and its benefits." and this essay or this presentation was actually published a year later in 1910 in the american historical review. in it, he offered one of the
first revisionist interpretations of reconstruction. now, the general consensus in 1909, early 20th century, in fact, almost up to the 1960s was that reconstruction was one of the worst periods in the history of this country, that reconstruction was characterized by corrupt carpetbaggers and scalawags and a ignorant negros who misruled the south, who stole money, who lined their pockets and basically misgoverned the south. the idea was as one historian put it was that by allowing african-americans like robert smalls to participate in government, barbarism had been put in place over civilization. well, dubois countered that interpretation, in fact challenged it thoroughly. he outlined that the so-called
ignorant negroes who had served in the governments in the south during this period had made three very important contributions. they had brought about the first democratic governments in the south. they had established the first republic schools, and they had passed new social legislation. and as many of you know, robert smalls did all three of those things. and of course as one of those so-called ignorant negroes, he, for example, proposed the legislation to create south carolina's public schools. he proposed several civil rights bills, and i'll go through those with you. and indeed, he tried to bring about democracy in south carolina for the first time in the history of this state. robert smalls was especially interested in dealing with civil rights in south carolina.
now, you heard my colleague steve talk about his big in philadelphia in july of 1864. we had an interesting incident occur to him in philadelphia as he was taking -- as he was taking the planter to the philadelphia shipyard to be repaired. he tried to catch the streetcar to the shipyard, and he and a white sailor were actually ejected from the streetcar, that is they did not allow african-americans in philadelphia to ride the streetcars in 1864. this had a tremendous impact on smalls. in addition, it had a tremendous impact on the city of philadelphia. african-americans had been trying for several years to gain access to riding the streetcars in philadelphia. but it took smalls and his
notoriety, his fame to actually make it happen. that is, the word spread and hit the newspapers that here is a civil war hero who cannot ride the streetcars in philadelphia. so it prompted a boycott of the streetcars by even some whites in philadelphia, which then eventually led to african-americans gaining the right to ride the streetcars in philadelphia in 1867. smalls, as you know, was part of the constitutional convention that took place in south carolina in 1868. and as i said, he proposed the legislation to create the state's free public school system. then he also helped to pass a law that brought south carolina in line with the civil rights bill that the u.s. government had passed in 1866. of course, the civil rights act of 1866 was a measure to get rid of the black codes and basically
to enforce the 13th amendment. while also serving in the state legislature, smalls in 1869 and 1870 proposed the state's first civil rights legislation. and this was a measure to ensure that african-american citizens could use public accommodations in the states without being discriminated against. and this measure actually stayed in the state constitution until 1889 when it was repealed. then 1876, he did something else very interesting. when the army a -- a bill to reorganize the army was being considered by the house, he added an amendment which said that if -- that the army could not discriminate against anyone on the basis of race, and also
that race should not be considered when people of course join the army. now smalls was definitely ahead of his time, because as we know, the army in the u.s. military didn't desegregate until 1949. but here in 1876, as i said, smalls was trying to force the army to desegregate. but unfortunately, the amendment a was voted down. in 1884, he proposed another amendment. this was an amendment to license liquor dealers in washington, d.c. -- excuse me, a law to license liquor dealers in washington, d.c. and smalls added the amendment that those who sold liquor in washington, d.c. could not discriminate in the establishments. they had to sell it to everybody. and of course his purpose for
doing that was to open up restaurants and taverns to african-americans so that they could go and use any public accommodations that they wanted. this also, of course, was taken out of the law. now one of the things that smalls was concerned with was the right to vote. in 1890, he wrote an article in the north american review called "election methods in the south." and of course in that article he castigated the state of south carolina for its efforts or for the events and activities that had taken place between 1876 and 1890 to disenfranchise african-americans. he talked about the eight box law, for example, in this particular article. this was the law where african-american, of course voters in general, but more
specifically african-americans had to come and make sure -- they had eight a different ballot boxes. you had to make sure when you cast your vote, that you put your ballot in the right box or it wouldn't count. he also of course castigated the state of south carolina for allowing the klan and the rifle clubs in the upstate areas, the democratic rifle clubs to sort of run rampant and to shoot and kill african-americans as they tried to vote. he called on benjamin harrison who was the president at that time to enforce the law, to defend the right to vote in the state of south carolina and in the south in general. were you trying to get my attention? okay. so smalls -- smalls, then, gives us an understanding then of how
the civil rights movement that is in the goals of the movement extended back past 1954. now we historians, we argue a back and forth over this issue of when did the civil rights movement begin. and of course those of us who believe that the civil rights movement is a long movement. i had one colleague say to me that the civil rights movement started when the first slave got off the boat. but then most people, though, will say it started in 1954 with the brown decision and the montgomery bus boycott. well, the long civil rights movement, though, actually does go back to people like robert smalls who indeed were trying to pass and propose legislation that would give african-americans equal opportunity to work, equal opportunity and public
accommodations as you have heard. equal access to the ballot, and basically, dignity. and smalls' own life sort of sets the tone for that in that he was a fighter. he challenged discrimination every opportunity and every chance that he got. now some of you, as you heard helen say this morning, i worked with her family to develop the exhibition that is now at the charleston museum. so i spent a year with robert smalls, you might say. that is, reading all of his works, looking for his pictures, reading everything that i could about him. and again, as you have heard, this man was a very unique individual in that he put to lie some of the beliefs about slavery in this country, some of the beliefs about african-american talent and abilities in this country at a
time basically when most people felt if you were black you were inferior. in fact, smalls had one of his colleagues in the house tell him that of course, he challenged him on the spot. so robert smalls, as i said, has had a tremendous impact on the historiography of reconstruction and on the civil rights movement. he has allowed us as historians to use his life as an example and to challenge the nonsense about ignorant negroes, to challenge the nonsense about african-americans being made and wanting to be slaves and loving their masters, although i have to say smalls did try to bail out the mckees a couple of times. but again, that doesn't mean that he loved them in the way that they said slaves love their masters in the 19th century. so with that, i'll pass it on to -- go ahead. [ applause ]
>> good evening. hi, i'm delighted to be here with you and to bring greetings to you from our founding director, lonnie g.baunch at the african-american museum of history and culture. and i've been asked to talk about robert smalls and the future. and he does have a future with the national museum of african-american history and culture. let me begin by talking about the history and mission of the museum. the national museum of african-american history and culture was established in 2003 as the 19th museum of the smithsonian institution, the largest museum complex and research organization in the world. its mission is to provide for the collection, study, and
establishment of programs and exhibitions related to african-american life, art, history, and culture. enacted through congressional legislation, this museum represents a national initiative of profound cultural importance that will impact this nation for generations to come. the museum will bridge a major gap in our national memory by creating exhibitions and programs focusing on a wide arc of history. slavery, reconstruction, the harlem renaissance, the great migrations to the north and west, segregation, civil rights and a beyond it also will celebrate african-american creativity and cultural expressions through art, dance, theater, and literature. the museum will be located on a five acre site adjacent to the
washington monument on the national mall. in washington, d.c. home to the world's largest collection of museums and at the center of one of the most public spaces of the nation. scheduled to open in 2015, the museum exists today through a vast array of programs nationwide, including special exhibitio exhibitions, an online presence, and numerous educational a programs. in vision, in many ways there are few things as powerful and important as a people, as a nation that is steeped in its history. often america is celebrated as a place that forgets. this museum seeks to help all americans remember, and by
remembering, this institution will stimulate a dialogue about race and help to fosse area spirit of reconciliation and healing. there are four legs on which this museum will stand. the first is to create an opportunity for those that care about african-american culture, to explore and revel in that history. second, equally important is the opportunity to help all americans see just how central african-american history is to all of us. the museum will use african-american history and culture as a lens into what it means to be an american. additionally, the museum will use african-american culture as a means to help all americans see how their stories, their histories, and their cultures are shaped and informed by international considerations.
and how the struggle of african-americans has impacted freedom struggles around the world. and finally, as a 21st century museum, the national museum of african-american history and culture must be and will be a place of collaboration. we must be a truly national museum that reaches beyond washington to engage new audiences and to collaborate with the myriad of museums and educational institutions both nationally and internationally. ultimately, the national museum of african-american history and culture should be a place of meaning, of memory, of reflection, of laughter, of hope. it should be a beacon that reminds us of what we were, what challenges we still face, and a point us toward what we can become.
the vision of the smithsonian's national museum of african-american history and culture is to inspire learning and understanding, promote healing, foster dialogue and reconciliation in an a environment that tells the american story through the lens of african-americans. in 2005, lonnie bunch was hired as the founding director of the museum. the museum will present the african-american story as part of the fabric of american life, a life of freedom, of bondage, of hope and resiliency, of struggle and pain, of successes and triumphs. it allows us to look at american history from an african-american perspective, and by so doing, we can see how important african-american history is to a larger american history.
robert smalls is included in the museum's vision, and it includes the stories related to robert smalls and his life and word. in february of -- february of th year, the museum celebrated the groundbreaking. and president obama was there. and i want to share with you his words in talking about the importance and significance of this museum. he said that moments like this made him think about his daughters, sasha and malia, and what i want for them to take away. i want them to see how ordinary americans can do extraordinary things, how men and a women just like them have the courage to right a wrong.
he said i want them to appreciate this museum not just as a record of tragedy, but as a celebration of life. and when we look at, again, robert smalls and the ministers associated with his life, we think of those as some of the ones we have talked about, my colleagues have talked about previously, those that are related to the individual and personal stories, his immediate circle and family and friends. there are also many other stories of success and celebration that are celebrated beyond that. one of the most significant aspects of his story focuses on him as a self-determined man, a man with a purpose. he is perhaps most remembered for liberating his wife, their children, and the other slaves by commandeering the uss planter. but in addition, there is a great deal of national notoriety
that is associated with that heroism. robert smalls also had, again, as my colleagues have mentioned, a most enduring political career that spanned more than 40 years. this was a significant feat for a man who was born into slavery. and although a very shrewd and skilled politician, he was marginally literal, having taught himself to read. his personal achievements were symbolic victories for millions of african-americans who despite severe limitations redefined and ultimately secured their future in america. in other instances history contains long-lasting consequences that touched the lives of many people across time and space. as dr. dulaney just mentioned, the compulsory education system
that operates in south carolina today owes its genesis to smalls and the leaders of the reconstruction era. when he returned to buford, he purchased the mckee home on prince street. the home was a symbol of his wealth and power, a visible mark on the landscape that informed both visitors and passersby that he had achieved a certain measure of success. he was successful. not only as a politician, but as a businessman and a property owner. he owned and operated a store in buford. he also owned a substantial amount of property from 1866 to 1868 in buford and on the sea islands. in 1870, his net worth in real property was $6,000, and his personal worth was estimated to be a thousand dollars.
smalls has been described as, quote, good humored, intelligent, and self-possessed, end of quote. and as a officially independent businessman, such a characterization would imply a person who entertained many people in his home, not only for social reasons, but for the purpose of cultivating relationships with influential leaders, that it would have bolstered his financial and political success. using one's home to provide social occasions to promote such interests was and continues to be an effective way to build and nurture important associations. as a house slave, smalls would have observed just such interactions in the mckee home. during post war south carolina, he helped to create a new
america, a society that changed america. and his home and the richly appointed furnishings would have been part of the material culture that signaled his role and importance in fashioning what he and others hoped would be a permanent elevation of african-americans. the significance of his home is reflected in contemporary descriptions of the wedding ceremony that was held at first african baptist church in 1890. the news and courier described the wedding and relations to his home. quote, the residence of the groom was brilliantly illuminated, and thither the bridal party with their many friends repaired, and the celebration of the nuptials was concluded by an expensive and elegant